University basketball broadcaster and reporter
The conclusion of the Big East Tournament quarterfinal opener on Thursday didn’t produce the reaction you might have thought from St. Louis fans. John’s.
The mood in the building wasn’t one of sadness after the 72-70 loss to Marquette, but of apathy. Red Storm fans have become immune to last-second defeats. They are tired of almost and coulda, woulda, shoulda. Excuses? All have been used.
The university fired Mike Anderson on Friday, an expected move after the 63-year-old failed to lead the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament in four seasons.
It’s the latest failure in a string of head coaching hires for the program, which has lost its last four (Chris Mullin, Steve Lavin, Norm Roberts).
The fact is this: St. John’s, a major program and brand in the Big East, cannot continue to let the league down. The Red Storm haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000 and will have a five-year drought in the Big Dance next March.
However, there is one major difference with this particular rental for the Johnnies. Sources tell FOX Sports that college president Rev. Brian Shanley, who entered Queens in 2021, is overseeing that hiring.
Yes, St. John’s has a president who understands the importance of basketball because he made Providence a power. Shanley was the longest-serving president in Providence College history, serving from 2005 to 2020. Although he missed out on the 2008 hiring of Keno Davis, Shanley made such an impactful hire that Providence made Ed Cooley in 2011. With 242 wins in 12 seasons at Rhode Island, including a Sweet 16 last year, Cooley has powered the Friars. in a golden era and credit goes to Shanley for pushing the button and getting him in to begin with.
Now, the St. John’s president has the pressure back on him to lift a once-proud program and put it back on the map. Identifying a proven winner is paramount.
Shanley’s top target: Rick Pitino.
Sources tell FOX Sports that Shanley and Pitino’s camp have been in discussions for the past few weeks and there is strong interest from both sides in getting a deal done.
The 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer currently has a 25-7 Iona team that is the top seed in the MAAC Tournament and in the semifinals.
The only head coach in college hoops history to lead three different schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville), Pitino’s all-time 709 wins speak for themselves, and the NCAA scandals of his past is in the rearview mirror.
As much as he’s gained momentum with Pitino in St. John’s, another source close to the university says that “the only thing that has increased with this situation is the amount of talk about it. There are still certain things that need to be worked out. whatever happens.”
So it’s a fluid situation with Pitino in the Red Storm, but let’s make one thing clear here:
Saint John should do this. It’s a no-brainer. If you’re serious about winning and turning the ship around, you make this move because with Pitino it’s not a question of “if” he’ll make them win. He’s not the long-term option, but the Johnnies need someone to turn them around now.
Beyond the work done on the court, Pitino can revitalize a fan base that has seen poor results for too long. St. John’s wouldn’t just be playing Madison Square Garden four times a year if Pitino were in place. It wouldn’t be UConn or Villanova fans filling the building, but Red Storm fans returning to the program.
Pitino’s pedigree speaks for itself, and the fundraising he could bring to a college in need of a lift would be substantial.
We’ll see how the situation evolves, but the right move is to look San Juan in the face. They have a leader in Shanley who is invested in athletics, knows the role the basketball program needs to play and is sick of losing games.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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